How Do You Become a Surgical Technologist?

Surgical technologists work with surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists, assisting in surgical procedures by completing tasks such as setting up and sterilizing instruments, preparing and transporting patients, passing tools to surgeons and monitoring patients’ vital signs. Because of the precise and technical nature of the position and the great responsibility that comes with handling a person’s life and well-being, formal training is necessary to become a surgical technologist.

Training programs for surgical technologists typically last from nine months to two years, earning the student a certificate or degree, followed by optional certification. Students study both general education and surgical technology topics in a combination of classroom studies, labs and hands-on clinical experience at a clinic or hospital.

Topics covered include:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Professional ethics
  • Medical terminology
  • Health
  • Biology
  • Chemistry

Surgical tech students also learn about surgical procedures and equipment, sterilization techniques and how to handle drugs. Some technologists may study to specialize in a particular area of surgery, such as neurosurgery or open heart surgery, and some may use their knowledge to earn a more specialized role in surgeries, like surgical first assistant (aids in more technical functions) or circulating technologist (performs “unsterile” tasks).